IAEA says Iran cooperating "as planned" so far

IAEA says Iran cooperating "as planned" so far

Iran has been cooperating with the UN nuclear watchdog as foreseen under a recent agreement, the chief inspector of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said Wednesday in Vienna, dpa reported.

As part of its efforts to repair relations with the international community, Iran agreed with the IAEA last month to provide access to formerly off-limit sites, as well as additional technical information about its nuclear facilities.

This agreement came shortly before Iran's separate nuclear deal with six world powers in Geneva.

"So far we have been cooperating for one month, and everything is proceeding as planned," chief inspector Tero Varjoranta said after a meeting with Iranian officials, in which both sides reviewed progress so far and talked about future inspection steps.

The IAEA's plan to investigate alleged past nuclear weapons research projects would be discussed at another meeting on January 21 in Tehran, the Finnish nuclear expert said.

This issue had long been on top of the agenda of the IAEA and the six nations negotiating with Tehran, but the agency and the six countries have essentially postponed tackling this sensitive topic in order to focus on Iran's current nuclear activities.

Iran met its first obligation under the IAEA-Iran agreement at the weekend, when it allowed inspectors to visit a plant that makes coolant for the plutonium-producing Arak reactor.

In the coming two months, Iran is also expected to grant access to its Gachin uranium mine.

Inspections of the mine in southern Iran will help determine whether the country wants to secretly enrich uranium in centrifuges for use in nuclear weapons, according to David Albright, head of the Institute for Science and International Security in Washington.

"This will allow the IAEA to know the amount of natural uranium mined at Gachin, making it harder for Iran to generate a secret stock of natural uranium that could be used in a clandestine, parallel centrifuge program," the non-proliferation expert wrote recently.

The six nations negotiating with Iran - Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States and Germany - are concerned that Tehran could use enriched uranium or plutonium from Arak to make nuclear weapons.

Under the Geneva agreement with these five permanent UN Security Council members and Germany, Iran committed to several steps including stopping enrichment of uranium to higher levels and halting construction of the Arak reactor.

In return, the group of six will suspend some sanctions targeting Iran.

Experts from the six countries and Iran started meeting in Vienna Monday to settle the fine technical details of this interim agreement.

These meetings would continue at least until Wednesday evening, according to Iran's IAEA envoy Reza Najafi.

The Geneva agreement is set to be implemented for a period of six months starting in late January, in order to create a timeframe for negotiating a wider-ranging deal that would entail further limitations on Iran's nuclear programme.

In return, the six have said they would permanently lift all sanctions and would help Iran build additional nuclear power reactors, in addition to the existing Russian-built Bushehr power station.

On a visit to Tehran, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Wednesday that his country wanted to continue its nuclear cooperation in this field.

"We see the same interest from Iran," he said.

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